#37 Albert Wilson

Albert C. Wilson (Abt. 1842-1894), aka Al. Wilson, Edward R. Marshall, W. H. Hall — Counterfeiter, Forger

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-four years old in 1886. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 6 1/2 inches. Weight, 170 pounds. Brown hair, slightly bald on top of head; wears light brown mustache and whiskers, generally cut short. Prominent nose, which is inclined to be hooked. Has a gunshot wound on back of left fore-arm; also a small scar half an inch long on lower lip, which runs down from corner of mouth, left side. Speaks in a calm, easy tone. Born in State of Louisiana.

RECORD. Al. Wilson is well known in many of the Eastern cities as an expert burglar and shoplifter, and has served two terms of imprisonment for the above offenses. He afterwards became an expert negotiator of forged paper of every description, and was known to the authorities of several cities as a member of “Brockway’s Gang of Forgers.” He also was identified with George Wilkes, George Engles (deceased), and Charley Becker, with whom he left for Europe in the spring of 1880, for the purpose of negotiating forged circular notes. This scheme failed, and he returned to America about August 15, 1880.

Wilson was arrested in New York City on October 18, 1880, and delivered to the police authorities of Baltimore, Md., charged, in connection with Henry Cleary, George Bell (193), and Charles O. Brockway (14), with forging and uttering checks amounting to $10,051 on the Merchants’ National Bank and the Third National Bank of Baltimore, Md., on July 16 and 17, 1880. One check for $2,160, another $3,901, and another of $1,300, were drawn to the order of J. Hunter and others, and, with the forged signature of J. H. Fisher, were presented at the Merchants’ National Bank; and a check for $1,394, and another for $1,296, drawn to the order of J. W. Kimball, and bearing the forged signature of Middleton & Co., of Baltimore, were presented at the Third National Bank. All five of these checks were paid on presentation. Wilson pleaded guilty to two cases of forgery, and he was sentenced to two years on each indictment (making four years in all), on November 3, 1880, by Judge Pinkney, at Baltimore, Md.

Shortly after his release from prison in Maryland he was arrested in Milwaukee, Wis. (June 26, 1884), under the name of Edward R. Marshall, charged with attempting to pass forged fifty-pound Bank of England notes. As he had failed to get rid of any of them there, he was delivered over to the Chicago (Ill.) authorities, who wanted him for disposing of some of the same notes. He was taken to Chicago, and escaped from a police station there on July 5, 1884, and went to England, where a gang was organized consisting of George Wilkes, George Engles, Charley Becker, Shell Hamilton, William Bartlett, Edward Burns, Edward Cleary, George Bell, and himself ; and, as above referred to, they entered into a gigantic scheme to flood France, Germany and Italy with forged circular notes, full particulars of which appear in the record of George Wilkes. A reward of one hundred dollars was offered for his arrest by the chief of police.

Al. Wilson, alias W. H. Hall, registered at St. Lawrence Hall in Montreal, Canada, on May 18, 1885, and on May 19 he went to the Bank of British North America and asked the manager of the bank to cash him a letter of credit for fifty pounds on the Union Bank of Scotland. He said that “he had fifteen hundred pounds more which he would like to have cashed in a few days.” The manager became suspicious and detained him, and sent for an officer, who arrested him when leaving the bank. One Robert Fox, a Scotchman, was arrested with him. He is about fifty-five years old. Height, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches. Weight, about 190 pounds. Stout build. Gray hair. Side whiskers and mustache, generally dyed black. Very bald. Sharp features. Round shoulders, and slightly stooped. Fox did not attempt to pass any of the letters of credit, but when arrested a large package of the letters was found on his person. He tried to destroy them, but was prevented by the officers. Wilson claimed that all the letters belonged to him, and that Fox had nothing to do with them. Wilson pleaded guilty on June 6, 1885. Fox was tried and found guilty on June 9, 1885. On June 13, 1885, Wilson was sentenced to twelve years in St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary, and Fox was sentenced to six years. Wilson’s picture is an excellent one, taken in 1880.

Chief Byrnes was attuned to the fact that there were two men using the name “Al Wilson” active as forgers in the 1880s, and correctly assigns crimes to the older man, born about 1842. In his 1895 edition, Byrnes mentions that this Al Wilson was discharged from the Montreal prison in November, 1893, returned to New York City, and died a short time later.

This aligns with the death of one Albert C. Wilson, a Civil War veteran, hospitalized at Ward’s Island, and later buried at Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn. This soldier enlisted at Albany in 1861 at age 19. His first term of service was as a private; he ended the war as a Second Lieutenant in command of African-American troops in the 3rd Regiment of the Colored Heavy Artillery.

While the above is mainly speculation, an earlier reference to Al. Wilson appears to fit the character of man described by Byrnes. In 1871, in the aftermath of an escape by several prisoners, the New York Sun looked into the state of the management of Sing Sing prison:

“It is well-known here to-day that for nearly the full term of the present agent’s administration, the real governor of the prison has been Casper C. Childs, the chief clerk, who has made a fine fortune out of the pick–I mean perquisites of his office. Agent Russell is looked upon as a nonentity, as far as the management of the prison is concerned, but is thought by most of the good citizens to have been shrewd enough to feather his nest at least as warmly as his subordinate.

“Another fact equally patent to the people here who have dealings with the prison authorities is that the business of the institution is conducted in a great measure by Al Wilson, a convict who has served five years, and hopes to be released in 1874. This man is a sharp fellow, of good education and excellent address. He was sentenced in 1866 to eight years for counterfeiting.

“Since his entrance into the prison he has been a pet, and has been subjected to but few of the mortifications and hardships which fall to the general lot. Wilson smokes fine cigars, wears a fine mustache and a head of elegant black curly hair. The cigar, the mustache, and the hirsute adornment are  strictly prohibited by the prison rules, but Mr. Wilson has somehow been enabled to override the rules and indulge his sartorial tastes to their fullest extent–except, let me say, in the matter of trousers. The agent requires him to wear the regulation stripes; and Mr. Wilson, in return for the favors granted him, accepts the trousers as a compromise.

“He is assistant to the chief clerk, and by means only known to himself, but guessed at by others, since his incarceration, made a larger fortune than he could have possibly secured by his clumsy evidences of want of respect to the legalized currency of the country. He is the happiest man in the prison, except the chaplain and the chaplain’s clerk, of whom more hereafter.

“A short time ago a citizen of Sing Sing called at the office of the prison to collect a bill due him on account of services rendered or goods furnished. He inquired of the attendant: ‘Where is Agent Russell?’ ‘Gone to New York.’ ‘Where is Tom Croton, the head keeper?’ ‘Gone off.’ ‘Where is Casper Childs, the chief clerk?’ ‘He’s away.’ ‘In heaven’s name, then, who is in charge of the prison?’ ‘Al. Wilson.’

“And to Mr. Al. Wilson, the convict clerk, the citizen paid his respects and presented his bill. The claim was duly examined, and the citizen received a check for the amount, drawn on the Sing Sing Bank, and signed ‘C. C. Childs, per Al. Wilson.’

“‘Is this check good?’ said the citizen, glanced at the striped integuments of the clerk. ‘Present it at the bank and see,’ said the convict. “My signature is as good there as anybody’s.’

“The check was presented and paid.”

For reasons unknown, Al. Wilson is one of the few criminals profiled by Byrnes that had “wanted” bulletins produced that have survived:






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